What common oral condition appears as shallow ulcers of different sizes, affects one in five Americans, can be caused by food allergies and hormonal changes, and also can cause severe mouth pain? Commonly referred to as "canker sores," recurrent aphthous ulcers (RAU) now can be treated by an extract in licorice root herbal extract, according to a study published in the March/April 2008 issue of General Dentistry.
The authors examined the effects of an over-the-counter medicated adhesive patch (with extract from the licorice root) for treatment of RAU versus no treatment. After seven days of treatment, ulcer size in the group who received the adhesive patch with licorice extract was significantly lower, while ulcer size in the no-treatment group had increased 13 percent.
Licorice root extract was used as a prescribed treatment for gastric ulcers until the 1970s, according to the study. In its original form, licorice root extract has a very strong taste. However, when combined with a self-adhering, time-release, dissolving oral patch, the taste is mild and pleasant.
Among the causes of canker sores, a genetic predisposition might be the biggest cause, says Michael Martin, DMD, PhD, lead author of the study. "When both parents have a history of canker sores, the likelihood of their children developing them can be as high as 90 percent," he says.
The most serious side effect of canker sores is sharp pain in the mouth, which can interfere with an individual's quality of life and affect their eating, drinking or speech. Dr. Martin revealed that "in addition to speeding healing of the canker sores, the adhesive patch helped to reduce pain after just three days of treatment."
Those who experience canker sores on a regular basis can visit their dentist for treatment techniques. "Dentists can give patients the proper medication and treatment options to seal the lesions, which will prevent further infection," says Eric Shapira, DDS, MAGD, AGD spokesperson and expert on alternative medicine. "Also, increasing vitamins and other herbs, such as Vitamin C and zinc, can help treat canker sores because they help to regenerate tissue cells," Dr. Shapira adds.
Common causes of canker sores:
- Local trauma and stress
- Diet and food allergies
- Hormonal changes
- Use of certain medications
Common treatments of canker sores:
- Antimicrobial mouthwashes
- Local painkillers
- Over-the-counter remedies (oral adhesive patches, liquids and gels)
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